When people go to work, they should be able to do so in an environment that is safe and supportive. That goes for government workplaces, too.
It’s with that in mind that the federal government has legislation in the works to help ensure that federally regulated workplaces, including Parliament Hill, are free from harassment and sexual violence. Bill C-65 is aimed at providing a strengthened federal framework to better protect workers and support employers.
With issues around bullying and sexual harassment frequently making their way into the news, it stands to reason that the government should take steps to prevent such occurrences from taking place in federal workplaces, and to make sure workers receive proper support if they do happen.
As part of the process, the government is consulting with representatives from key sectors and groups through a series of roundtable sessions. The public is also encouraged to offer feedback by participating in an online consultation that will be open for comments until Oct. 5. (People can go online to the https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/ website.)
Based on results of a 2017 online consultation, it seems improved measures are needed. A news release from Employment and Social Development Canada noted that 60 per cent of people taking part in the consultation reported having experienced harassment, and 30 per cent said they had experienced sexual harassment. In addition, 21 per cent reported experiencing violence, and three per cent said they had experienced sexual violence.
Respondents also indicated that incidents of harassment are underreported, often because of fear of retaliation. When incidents are reported, all too often they’re not dealt with effectively. Forty-one per cent of those surveyed said no attempt was made to resolve an incident they reported.
The online consultation also showed that women are more likely than men to experience sexual harassment. In addition, people with disabilities and members of a visible minority group are more likely to experience harassment than other groups.
Those results certainly suggest a need to strengthen efforts to deal with the situation in federal workplaces. Harassment and sexual violence of any sort are not acceptable in any workplace, and measures need to be in place to get the message across. One of the most effective ways to do that is to swiftly and properly deal with incidents when they happen. Having a framework of regulations in place will let workers and employers know what is expected in those situations, and the fact those measures will be law should, one would hope, help ensure a better outcome.
All workers deserve to be protected from harassment on the job, and Bill C-65, once it has been polished and implemented, should help provide more protection.